Shopping for a bikini is traumatic enough without worrying about accidentally coming in contact with some stranger's dried menstrual blood. But for one unlucky Victoria's Secret shopper in San Diego, that's exactly what happened this weekend.
Reader Pauline (not her real name) visited the Victoria's Secret store in San Diego's University Towne Center on Sunday afternoon around 1 pm. The store was busy, but not so busy that she had to wait for a fitting room. An associate counted her items, assigned her a room, and then — well, I hope you've already bought your summer 2014 beachwear, because here's what happened, in her words:
[The bikini bottoms] all had the plasticky sanitary strips in them, which I could feel when I was pulling them on. Obviously I left my underwear on, but as I was pulling off a pair of bikini bottoms, I noticed dried blood in the crotch! Not even a small drop - a quarter-sized amount, plus smears, all around the "sanitary strip"! It was awful. Somehow that garment had been picked up from the fitting room, PUT BACK ON ITS HANGER, and re-racked where I grabbed it to try on.
Understandably shaken, Pauline asked to speak to a manager, who pulled her aside and gave her some hand sanitizer and a 30% off coupon. No one took her name down, no one offered to follow up with her. When she called the company's customer care line to ask whether the sanitizer-n-coupon routine was the standard way grossed out customers were treated, she was told that there are no protocols for addressing customers coming in contact with bloody clothing that has been improperly re-racked by careless employees because it "never happens." She was further informed that even if in fact a bloody bikini crotch policy existed, they couldn't tell her because those things are "confidential." Glomar'd! Pauline then mentioned that it was likely a health and safety violation, and the customer care representative encouraged her to have her lawyer call the company's lawyers, since she was suing. Reminder: Pauline was seeking information about a thing that happened to her.
All Pauline says she wanted was a little customer service. As skin-crawling as it sounds, bloody clothing is probably a statistical inevitability for a high volume store, especially one that sells garments that come into contact with orifices that occasionally bleed. People are gross and weird and I'm sure some of them would return a blood-smeared garment to the racks and hope no one noticed. But one would hope, as a shopper, that store employees would provide some sort of barrier between the disgusting masses and people who just want to try on clothing without coming in contact with another person's bodily fluids. In addition, when that barrier is breached, most shoppers would hope to be treated as something more than a dangerous pariah. Pauline says she was perplexed at the company's insistent, hostile opacity to her desire to be followed up with or told how the problem was being addressed. She'd have at least liked the lip service of a follow-up phone call, but when she asked the store manager's name, she was told it was "confidential" before another employee let it slip that the person's name was "Rebecca." Victoria, in addition to bloody unmentionables, apparently has a lot of secrets.
When we reached out to Victoria's Secret to ask if Pauline received the standard bloody bikini treatment, we were similarly stonewalled. A manager at the University Towne Center location who introduced herself as "Sojana" (later in the conversation, she refused to say or spell her name, claiming that it, like everything else of or having to do with Victoria's Secret, was "confidential") told us that, contrary to what customer care told Pauline, the company has "very strict protocol" regarding "that type of thing," but that was all she could say. When asked if just being given hand sanitizer and a coupon and being hustled out the door without any follow up was part of the protocol, she said that she hadn't been there during "the situation," and that she couldn't answer any questions.
Multiple calls to and messages left with the company's media relations department were not returned. Kind of puts a squicky spin on the company's latest promotion, no?
Their inscrutable corporate stonewalling has at least one shopper feeling put out. Pauline writes,
I won't shop there again, and the fact that they take my business so for-granted that they offered me a 30% off coupon for my NEXT visit (I couldn't have even used it that day if I'd been willing to) is insulting.
Every once in awhile, the news cycle gift wraps a horror story about retail shopping — bedbugs, racist clerks, Ikea monkeys. But blood-smeared bikini bottom displayed, undetected, on a hanger is a new one. It's almost enough to make skinny dipping sound like the responsible, adult thing to do.
Image via Shutterstock.